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Cemeteries reopen to canine visitors

Last modified: 9/14/2010 12:00:00 AM
Welcome back, pooches.

The city council last night lifted the ban it imposed last month on dogs in the 13 public cemeteries, with councilors saying existing ordinances that require owners to leash their animals and clean up after them can be more effectively enforced.

'I think the community has heard loud and clear - dog owners, I'm a dog owner - that the dog needs to be on a leash and that you need to pick up after your . . . pets,' said Councilor Candace Bouchard, who represents Ward 9.

At-large Councilor Steve Shurtleff proposed the ban, spurred by an opinion piece published in the Monitor earlier this year by former Monitor editor Mike Pride that described dog waste and refuse littering Old North Cemetery.

The council approved the ordinance last month on a voice vote, banning dogs (except service animals) from the city cemeteries on pain of fines ranging from $50 to $1,000.

But last night, Shurtleff asked that the ban be reconsidered. Several members noted they had heard from constituents after the ban was passed, and after a discussion that focused on the need to better enforce or increase awareness of existing rules, the council voted overwhelmingly on a voice vote to repeal the ban.

Ward 5 Councilor Robert Werner called Shurtleff's original analysis of the problem and solution 'well spoken and well intentioned.'

But, he said, 'I would think that perhaps what we could do in the interim is, stronger language in terms of signs, more explicit signage in terms of really reminding people that they need to adhere to the existing ordinances of leashing their dogs and cleaning up after their dogs,' Werner said.

Shurtleff described Old North Cemetery as a historic treasure, perhaps second in the city only to the State House, and said he's interested in starting a volunteer organization to help provide upkeep and maintenance going forward.

'I hope that we truly have sent a message, loud and clear, that these are sacred grounds and that they should be treated with the respect they deserve,' said Mayor Jim Bouley.

The council last night also discussed the pilot overnight parking program in downtown, which is set to expire Nov. 1 after two years.

A public hearing, and likely a decision, on whether to make permanent the program, which allows overnight parking in part of downtown and Ward 6, was set for next month's council meeting.

But an attempt by Ward 1 Councilor Liz Blanchard to add part of downtown Penacook to the area where overnight parking would become legal was turned back on a divided voice vote.

Blanchard said development in Penacook would be encouraged by added parking.

'I feel that Penacook should have been considered in the pilot program. . . . Penacook isn't just another neighborhood. It is the only other ward in the city that has a downtown. Even though it's smaller, it's a downtown business section,' she said.

But some council members expressed concern about okaying overnight parking in downtown Penacook without a pilot program or other study. Ward 10 Councilor Fred Keach said it would be more appropriate to consider whether to expand overnight parking citywide, rather than go neighborhood by neighborhood.

The council agreed to have the city's parking study committee consider the issue and make recommendations to the council regarding parking in Penacook and other areas of the city.

The council also last night approved several spending items, including authorizing $65,000 in bonds or notes to resurface metal on two clarifiers at the Hall Street Wastewater Treatment Plant, which City Manager Tom Aspell described as regular maintenance required every five to seven years to prevent deterioration.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com.)


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